Putting Google Experiments to the Test

Putting Google Experiments to the Test

Analytics

I always found AdWords Campaign Experiments (ACE) to be a slightly cumbersome way to test different variables with online advertising campaigns. Reporting, particularly at the keyword level, took some effort, and the setup of the test itself could be time-consuming. So, when Google announced it was going to replace ACE with “campaign drafts and experiments,” I was rather giddy. Now that I’ve had some time to work with campaign drafts and experiments (aka Google experiments) option, I urge you to try it.

With experiments, Google allows advertisers to create a draft campaign (a replica) of a real campaign they are running. By doing so, the advertiser can make adjustments to advertising campaigns in a number of ways, such as changing keyword bids, ad group setup, ad copy, ad scheduling, and geo-targeting.

And how can an advertiser run the 50/50 split properly? Well, Google now asks advertisers how much traffic (budget) they want to spend on the new experiment campaign and how much they want to spend on the control (current) campaign. And with Google experiments, if an advertiser wants to run a test with 90 percent of traffic being piped through the control and 10 percent through the test, they can do so. Having the option to test traffic in this manner gives advertisers the capability to test even if they might be wary to spend more on a true 50/50 test.

Unfortunately (there’s always an unfortunately, amirite?) there are limits to what an advertiser can test, but those limits are not nearly the same as with ACE. For instance:

  • Some reporting isn’t available such as ad scheduling, auction insights, display placement reports.
  • The Dimensions tab is not available. Dimensions reports on search terms, by-day results, paid versus organic, and other deep-dive report.
  • Some automated bid strategies (e.g., “target search page location,” “target outranking share,” and “target return on ad spend) and ad customizers (e.g., “target campaign,” “target ad group”) are not available, either.

But, how many advertisers are looking to test these settings? Not many (other than me, that is). Rather, most advertisers will be using experiments for testing many of the basic questions, such as:

  • What messaging performs best in my ad copy?
  • Do increased keyword bids improve conversion rates?
  • What landing page leads to higher conversion rates?

For those with more advanced tests in mind, advertisers are able to dive deep into each campaign and try testing a number of variables, such as:

  • Excluding a search partner (e.g., another engine powered by Google, such as Ask.com) from the test campaign and keeping a search partner in the control campaign.
  • Targeting a city/state differently in the test campaign then in the control campaign.
  • Bidding differently on gender, age, device, or income.
  • Testing a different ad schedule.

The best new feature of the experiments is easier reporting. Instead of pulling segments, subtracting test totals from the overall totals, or having to run a crazy formula to confirm all of the test keywords were pulled correctly, Google breaks out campaign experiment results simply as “Experiment” and “Original” in the experiments tab. The totals are easy to see and couldn’t be easier to pull. Even better, these numbers are reported on in Analytics! The Analytics feature wasn’t possible through ACE.

After an advertiser does the tedious work of building out an account’s keywords, ad copy, and extensions, experiments allows the advertiser to test, and testing is the fun part of the job. Experiments allows us to get actionable data that can lead to better decision-making, not just for display or paid search, but in some cases across multiple tactics. Those results may give senior marketers another view of their marketing campaign effectiveness and rethink their approaches.

Voice Search Gets Louder

Voice Search Gets Louder

Search

Recently we’ve seen some news developments that underscore how rapidly voice technology is growing as a way for people and brands to accomplish increasingly sophisticated tasks. Companies are evolving their strategies to accommodate the rising popularity of voice. It’s time to take a closer look at adapting your digital marketing for voice search. These examples show how big companies such as Amazon, Google, and Samsung are accommodating the rise of voice:

Voice Assistants Take Hold

Research firm Parks Associates recently announced that the number of voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home more than doubled from 2015 to 2016. According to Parks Associates, the adoption rate of smart speakers with voice assistants grew from 5 percent of U.S. broadband households in Q4 2015 to 12 percent in Q4 2016. Parks Associates Research Analyst Dina Abdelrazik said, “Voice interfaces are advancing due to continued improvements in machine learning and natural language processing, paired with the prevalence of portable devices. Apple increased consumer familiarity of voice control with its introduction of Siri in 2011, but the later-to-market Amazon Alexa has taken a clear lead in this category.”

Voice assistants are taking hold for a number of reasons, and Parks Associates cites an important one — advancements in forms of artificial intelligence, which make voice assistants more effective at interpreting complex commands. The growth of voice assistants, along with the popularity of mobile devices, is helping fuel a rise in voice search. Voice search has quickly developed from a topic of research to a reality. Consumers, armed with mobile devices, are finding that they can ask for more complex things to buy, find places to go, and decide on things to do with increased sophistication, by searching with more conversational questions such as “When are the Cubs hosting the St. Louis Cardinals next at Wrigley Field?” or “Where can I find deep dish pizza with free parking on Chicago’s north side?”

Samsung Launches Bixby

On March 20, Samsung announced the launch of its own voice assistant, Bixby, which gives Samsung an entree into a field that includes tools such as Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Apple’s Siri. Samsung claims that Bixby will feature a better user interface that combines touch and voice and an improved ability to interpret commands. As Samsung noted in a press release, “Bixby will be smart enough to understand commands with incomplete information and execute the commanded task to the best of its knowledge, and then will prompt users to provide more information and take the execution of the task in piecemeal. This makes the interface much more natural and easier to use.” Samsung will make Bixby available with its Galaxy mobile device and plans to expand Bixby to TVs and other appliances.

Google Changes AdWords

Recently, Google announced some changes to AdWords exact match close variants, which will affect advertisers’ keyword strategies for voice search. Close variants, which Google introduced in 2012, is a feature that makes it possible for an ad to appear in a search result even for searches that contain misspellings, plurals, and close matches to keywords that an advertiser is bidding on. Now, AdWords is expanding the feature to include variations in word order and to ignore function words such as “in” and “for.”

Google suggests this change will benefit advertisers by decreasing the amount of keywords needed in a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, which is true. But the expansion of close variants is also Google’s way to accommodate the rise of voice search. Here’s why:

  • Voice searches use more conversational language.
  • Conversational language can include many variations, such as the use of who, what, where, when and why questions.
  • Because of the conversational nature of voice search, campaign managers might feel compelled to over-build their keyword list in their account in order to cover all possible variations of voice searches that fit their brand. But Google has mitigated against over-building keyword lists by making word order and function words irrelevant. A keyword bid will match for “Flights to Chicago,” “flights in Chicago,” “flights for Chicago,” and so on.
  • In other words, now advertisers do not need to worry about building out exact match keywords in a variety of orders or even include every function word. Advertisers still need to focus on conversational questions including what, where, when, and why, as well as long-tailed queries. But the variations in keywords will now be minimized.

It’s obvious brands need to adapt their paid and organic search strategies to accommodate the use of voice search. In a recently published blog post, we discuss some of the key ways that businesses need to adapt their pay-per-click (PPC) strategies for voice search. Check out our post and contact us to discuss how we can help you adapt your digital marketing for voice search.

Image source: Digital Trends

How to Apply a March Madness Approach to Paid Search

How to Apply a March Madness Approach to Paid Search

Search

I look forward to NCAA March Madness every year. What I do like about March Madness is picking random teams based off either the state, the colors, or just rankings and odds. I love the camaraderie of being in a pool and heckling the other losers, and typically losing my $10 buy-in. Now that I’ve gotten the hang of creating a March Madness bracket year over year, I thought I’d apply the approach of choosing brackets to selecting a winning paid search strategy for 2017, based on my knowledge of search engine marketing.

Getting Started with a Paid Search Bracket

What makes March Madness so fun and exciting is that each tournament is different. The Connecticut Huskies won the championship in 2011 and 2014, yet they aren’t even in the bracket this year. Well, paid search is like March Madness in that regard — you cannot predict the “winning” tactic every year. What worked years ago might not be relevant in 2017. For example, targeting long-tail keywords used to be a best practice. Now the long-tail keyword approach has become obsolete due to the addition of close keyword variation. Now, let’s take a look at 16 important paid search tactics/practices for 2017 and put them in a bracket for consideration. How would you fill out the following bracket?

All of these tactics are important, and, depending on your needs, the results could be different. For example, is your key performance indicator lead generation? Then shopping campaigns wouldn’t apply. Do you have a small budget? I wouldn’t recommend YouTube if you have a small budget and your main goals are return on ad spend or cost per order. But if you are interested in increasing brand awareness, YouTube could be beneficial. The fun part about paid search is that there isn’t a “one size fits all” mentality. The important thing is to learn what works for you each year.

Selecting the Final Four Paid Search Tactics for 2017

Below is my paid search bracket for 2017. I’ve given a brief description about my Final Four and why I think my candidates are pivotal in 2017.

  • Adwords IF Function Ads – We now can modify our ad copy based on device or audience. Doing allows us to change our call to action for those on mobile from “Learn More” to “Call Now” or maybe “Easy Mobile Booking.”
  • Demographic Targeting – We can optimize and gather data based on income, age, gender, and so forth. Do we see that 18-24 year olds aren’t performing as well as 35-44 year olds? Let’s exclude or add a negative bid multiplier on the 18-24 year olds so that we can increase of traffic volume for those demographics that perform well.
  • Attribution – What campaigns help the “last click conversion” with “assisted conversions”? We all know that the brand campaigns have a much higher conversion rate and conversion amount. How much of that outcome comes from assisted conversions? Did our non-branded, dynamic search campaign or display campaigns contribute to the branded conversions?
  • Facebook Lookalike Targeting – Using Facebook’s algorithm to create a new audience based off of a list of past customers. You might find success when using this targeting if you have a smaller budget and target a focused audience size.

The Winner: Demographic targeting! Instead of relying on keyword data for all of our optimizations, we can now optimize off of age, gender, income targeting, and so on. We are now able to add bid modifiers or exclude demographics that don’t fit our target audience. This capability, in turn, can increase our order volume, or improve efficiencies by reducing traffic that isn’t a fit for our clients. Demographic targeting is just in the beginning stages for paid search campaigns and will only improve as Google gains more information.

Lead image source: Fredrick Kearney Jr. (https://stocksnap.io/author/37926)